Instagram is trying to reassure its millions of users that there’s no reason to panic. The social media brand promises nothing about the way its popular photo-sharing app works is changing… yet.
The mobile app maker has been getting an earful from many of its filter-loving, photo-snapping users this week after the company announced it would be switching over to algorithmic filtering. That’s the trick that sorts social media posts based on a user’s behaviors and interests, instead of just filing them in chronological order, as Instagram typically does now.
Instagram, eager to quell all the fears that change is bad, maintains that it’s still just testing out the new technique.
Algorithmic filtering is nothing new. Instagram-owner Facebook does this on its own news feed, sorting posts using data calculations based on which status updates it thinks are most relevant to the user.
Twitter does it too, popping up tweets from while you were away with the goal of surfacing those deemed to be the most interesting as well as pushing up sponsored posts from advertisers.
But the big shift over to filtering by all the social media giants has fueled a debate with many asking why not just stick with a chronological timeline. Theoretically, that would create less selection bias and a more raw, unfiltered experience for users.
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As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom explained to the New York Times, “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.” Systrom also insists the proposed change is about making sure the 30% people do see is the “best 30 percent possible.”
But social media users, who tend to get a bit grouchy about these kinds of alterations to their beloved social channels, have gotten pretty riled up this week about the proposed Instagram changes.
Celebrities and businesses are nervous that their respective followers might not see as many of their posts anymore, so they are clambering to ask followers to turn on notifications in the app, ensuring they’re still alerted to updates at all hours and every time a user posts a new photo.
There’s even a Change.org petition amassing hundreds of thousands of supporters lobbying to keep Instagram chronological. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had garnered over 325,450 signatures, though it’s not clear what will happen if or when the petition surpasses the 500,000-signature goal.
Despite all the vocal celebrities, some Instagrammers have had enough with the outcry.
Perhaps they’re a bit more comfortable with the idea that computer filtering of timelines is probably becoming inevitable as apps scramble to lure advertisers and remain relevant.